10 Essential Tips for Planning an Outdoor Music Festival

Group of friends hanging out on a grassy field
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Whether you're going for a weekend of chamber music or a rock marathon, planning an outdoor music festival should be an exciting process: The music, the atmosphere, the weather, and most importantly the people. But don't get distracted. Here are 10 essential tips to help you make your music festival a complete success.

You’ll Need a Lot of Equipment

The focus of your event is going to be live music, which means a suitable stage, lighting equipment, and sound equipment. Hire a specialized music production company. They'll know exactly what you’ll need when you need it, and where you’ll need it. Let them run the technical side of the event. 

Give Yourself Time

It takes many months, if not a year or more, to book the bands, the vendors, and the venue. And remember, the best of all of those things are booked well in advance. Marketing and selling tickets also take time. Give yourself enough lead time to do it right.

Plan the Space Well

The festival will need enough open space for the stage or stages you need, plus backstage areas, catering vans, portable bathroom facilities, and campgrounds if it’s a weekend festival.

Don’t forget to leave a fair amount of space between stages if there’s going to be more than one, or the acts will drown each other out.

Budget Wisely for Artists

Don't lose track of your total artist budget. If you book one hugely popular act that uses up your total budget, you’re going to struggle to keep festival-goers entertained for the duration of the festival.

Think about having an eclectic mix of unsigned local talent and up-and-coming bands, with a big name or two thrown in if the budget allows.

Get the Permits

If your festival is being held on public land, you’re likely to need a permit from the city. The last thing you want is to get shut down on the day because you don’t have your paperwork in order.

Organize the Entrance

What about tickets, and wristbands or hand-stamps? Wristbands are the best choice when planning an outdoor music festival, especially if it lasts for more than one day. And make sure you have enough people at the entrance to keep people flowing in. Nobody likes standing in line.

Hire Security

At the very least, you want to make it difficult for people to hop fences and get in for free. But you have to consider the health and safety of your festival-goers, too. One out-of-control drunk can ruin your whole event. In any case, you have to be prepared for wandering children, slippery surfaces, unruly crowds, bee stings, and every other bad thing you can think of. Professional security people know how to deal with this stuff.

Plan Non-Musical Entertainment

There may be downtime between sets, or even technical difficulties. Make sure that you’ve got other types of entertainment for attendees. You could add art installations, dance shows, magicians, wandering actors, kids’ activities or comedy acts to the mix.

Market Cleverly

Marketing an outdoor music festival isn't quite the same as marketing other types of events. In addition to social media and local press, think about the bands and acts that are performing at the festival. Their fans are going to make up a large part of your audience, so target their fan sites as well as your usual outlets.

Don’t Forget the Essentials

Festival-goers need food, drink, bathrooms, first aid kits, and bins for litter and recyclables. And you're going to need someone to pick up all that mess after the festival closes.